Week x — IGD720 results

2021-06-15

The IGD720 assignment results are in.

I want to focus on one particular bit of feedback from the tutor:

I really enjoyed reading about your opinion on targeting the market versus making something you feel passionate about. This is a rather controversial topic as we had discussed in previous webinars, as there is supporting evidence that gives credence to both sides of the debate. You began to tease out a fine analysis into this, and appreciate you are currently undecided overall, but what would you say is your conclusion? This is not something I can provide an answer to, unfortunately, but here is a small hint based on my experience in this domain so far: How do you get your game in front of as many people as possible?

How do you get your game in front of as many people as possible?

Jonathan Blow stumbles upon good designs as he’s developing (Game Maker’s Toolkit 2016). My naive take might be: make something no-one’s seen before, and share the work frequently (devlogs, screenshots, GIF, Twitter #screenshotsaturday, etc). Your niche will start following you. When you get greenlit, they’ll start wish-listing you. Like Jonathan Blow, you’ll have happy accidents along the way to make your game really unique. No amount of research would have told Jonathan Blow to make Braid.

Then it dawned on me that, perhaps research is not about finding out what game to make, but finding out how to better sell the game I’m making. So, market research (and subsequently marketing and public relations) helps you find your audience, and better appeal to that audience and selling directly to them, while you get to make the game you want to make. Right?

I suppose when it comes to researching what people want, I guess I’m kinda continuously doing that in a light/casual/observational way already. I’m seeing what sells, I’m seeing what people like, etc. I follow analysts (like Simon Carless, for instance). I see what’s trending (e.g. party games for ~4 players, or battle royale games, games for change), etc. I can see that folks are tired of retro pixel graphics. I know which saturated (yet popular) genres to avoid (action, adventure, RPG) so I’m not drowned out. (I might be completely wrong here!)

I bounced a few ideas off my tutor, and he replied:

We work in a sector that very much benefits from the fact that we aren’t necessarily offering a competing “product” to fill a need, so to speak, but are instead faced with the challenge of competing for a gamer’s time and attention. If your plan is still to become a full-time developer, hopefully making a steady income, I wholeheartedly recommend carrying out some research and exploiting what is currently trending in the indie space at the moment.

Which led me to think: So, for instance, I can make any genre of game, and the market research might inform which features to add (e.g. local multi-player); who the target audience is; which localities to localise for; which countries to employ which marketing strategies for, which in turn determines what marketing materials to use, on which channels, and which times of day; when to release; what success would look like (e.g. 1000 sales in first week, and 10K on the long tail); which Twitch/Youtube streamers to reach out to; iterating the games strengths/weaknesses; coming up with a business plan and pitch deck in case I need to ask for extra money; if this was the 90s, what to put on the box - that kind of thing?

I suppose I’m jumping the gun a bit here, and we’ll learn all about market research in the next module.

Perhaps market research is finding your 1000 true fans? A game for everyone is a game for no-one, right? Kevin Kelly (founder of Wired mag) wrote about 1000 true fans, and is something I take to heart (Kelly 2008). I’m leaning towards setting up something like the sokpop collective one day, where I make something every month for my true fans, who will gladly pay me (and my maybe-team) a monthly sub for anything I come up with. (I’ll have to think hard about the approach, so it’s not a slow-burn for too long, or never take off at all. Or perhaps catering for 1000 true fans is really hard.)

Anyway, the feedback on my essay left me with a lot of questions, and no doubt I’ll find some answers in the next module.

Be prepared to persevere; often your first game will only bring you limited returns, yet your first published title acts as a vital initial step in building up a catalogue of titles, expanding your community of followers and ultimately earning a solid, regular income.

(Hill-Whittall 2015)

Bibliography

  1. HILL-WHITTALL, Richard. 2015. The Indie Game Developer Handbook. Burlington, MA: Focal Press.
  2. KELLY, Kevin. 2008. “1,000 True Fans.” The Technium. Available at: https://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-true-fans/ [accessed 5 Jul 2021].
  3. GAME MAKER’S TOOLKIT. 2016. “How Jonathan Blow Designs a Puzzle.” Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zK8ItePe3Y [accessed 21 Jun 2021].

This post is part of my critical reflective journal and was written during week x of the module co-creative development.

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